The Political & Religious Climate That Jump-Started
The King James Bible
A Review of God's Secretaries
THE MAKING OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE
up to page 67 of the book
For The DBS Women by Yvonne S. Waite
JULY 14, 2004
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK
Sometime in 2003, I heard about HarperCollins
Publishers releasing a new book entitled, GOD'S SECRETARIES--The
Making of the King James Bible. So it was with interest that I
heard the author, ADAM NICOLSON, reviewing his own book on C-Span a few
Mr. Nicolson does not claim to be a born-again
Christian. In fact, he was doing research in another area when he became
very interested in the King James Bible and its TRANSLATORS. He asked
himself a series of questions: "What was there about the TRANSLATORS and
their translation that made this AUTHORIZED VERSION of the Bible last so
many years?"and "What was there about that Bible that made it sound as if
God Himself were speaking?" It was then that Adam Nicolson set out to find
some answers to his questions. As I listened to the Englishman, my
interest was peaked. I, too, had questions. "Who were these translators?
What were they like? What were their methods of translation?" Having heard
my husband speak in defense of the King James Bible and its underlying
texts for about thirty-three years, I was all ears!
When a friend sent us the book called GOD'S
SECRETARIES--THE MAKING OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE, I was compelled
to read the book in order to review it for you. It has been a real task
for me to do this. There are so many facets of the book and so many
conflicts portrayed therein. I can't possibly cover them in one session.
There are good reports and bad reports about the
TRANSLATORS and KING JAMES, as well as the political climate of the times,
etc. Because my time is limited with you, I've decided to speak mostly of
the early chapters of the book, the historical notes, and some of the
personalities on the scene. Perhaps another time, I can do more.
TRANSLATORS WERE ORDINARY MEN WITH EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS
One of the things that I liked about this book is that the King James
Bible TRANSLATORS were not made out to be "holy men of God . . . moved
by the Holy Ghost," as the writers of Scripture were. The author
availed himself of the few notes remaining concerning the TRANSLATORS, as
well as the translation process itself. Sad to say, most of recorded
information on the subject had been burned in a horrific London fire. Mr.
Nicolson did not belittle the TRANSLATORS or build them up with lofty
praise. He just reported his findings. I personally liked his honesty.
We must remember that the King James TRANSLATORS were not "moved by
the Holy Ghost" as the New & Old Testament writers were (1 Peter
1:20). Their translation work itself was not "inspired by God"
or "God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16). They never claimed
to be writers of the Scriptures. They were only TRANSLATORS. Perhaps, some
in this century have elevated these gifted men so high in their minds,
that they tend to forget that those scholars were people with human
failures and frailties like all mortals. Yet, they were brilliant and
devoted to the original languages! We, who love and defend the King James
Bible, will always be grateful to them!
The more humble of the group would have crumbled if they knew how some
today have elevated their translation work to the stature of the original
writers such as the Apostle Paul himself. These men were not perfect.
Who is? Like many men we know today, they had personality problems,
marriage complications, and personal losses. They had human fears and
faults. Some were lonely. This did not mean they did not know what they
were talking about when it came to translation. Oh, they were blessed with
intellectual gifts and language skills, honed and sharpened to perfection.
Many of them lived and breathed in the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and
all the sister languages. Many conversed in such languages.
It was in the languages that they were "at home." It was in
those languages that they had peace and contentment. It is interesting
to note that they compared other versions of their times to the original
languages. There were versions such as the Tyndale Bible, the Geneva
Bible, and the Bishops' Bible which were on the tables before them. They
wanted the people to have the familiar wording of the Bibles they were
used to hearing, yet correctly translated. They freely argued, disagreed,
or agreed. These men were human beings like you and I are, just like our
husbands, sons, and fathers.
THE RHYTHM & SOUND TO THE EAR
I was impressed how the translators would shut their eyes and listen to
the sound of the words as they fell upon their ears. The rhythm had to be
right. Their new version had to "sound" like God was speaking. Such a
desire on their part, forced the TRANSLATORS to reach back into a spoken
English, long forsaken by the man-on-the-street of their day.
As you know, the English found in the King James Version is not, for
the most part, the English we speak today. Did you know that it was not
the English that men spoke in 1611 either? We in our century have the King
James Bible TRANSLATORS to thank for funneling proper English into the
hearts and minds of all who have followed in their train. Without their
translation, as well as the works of Shakespeare, English may not have
become the language of learning that it is in the world today.
MEN OF HIGH ESTEEM
As I read about their lives, I saw that the men who translated the King
James Bible were just that: "TRANSLATORS." The translation task was
a highly respected gift and ability. Not just anyone could do it! So high
was the esteem of that position of "translating," that the word,
"TRANSLATORS," (in speaking about those scholars) was always printed in
the upper case. This was done for many years, whenever the men were
mentioned in writing.
POLITICAL TIMES & RELIGIOUS DISPUTES
The author led me to believe that the King James Bible came into being
to settle political and religious disputes within the country and within
the church. The crux of the religious differences was between the Puritans
and the Anglicans, whose church's titular head was always the reigning
king or queen of the day. Eventually, it would be the soon-to-be appointed
Archbishop of Canterbury, RICHARD BANCROFT, the principal organizer of the
King James Bible, who would drive the PURITAN SEPARATISTS out of the
Church of England to Amsterdam, and eventually to America. Though, at
first politician and monarchist BANCROFT was against a new Bible, he
created a magnificent team of TRANSLATORS drawn from a wide spectrum of
A NEW YOUTHFUL VIGOR
After the old Queen Elizabeth finally passed on, JAMES STUART VI of
Scotland & JAMES I of England reigned (being the same individual). With
his crowning, England was renewed in youthful vigor. The "always the
same" (Semper eadem) motto of the dead queen was a thing of the
past. With London growing like a "hothouse plum," with Oxford and
Cambridge crowded, with the issues of the day unsolved--such as inflation,
and with the financial drain of the never-ending war against Spain-- it
was time for a change! The new king had a new outlook. It was exactly what
the country needed.
JAMES came to the kingdom with his wife, Anne, and their children. She
was to bare his sixth child soon. What a refreshing change from the
wrinkled dowager queen whose "pasteboard virginity . . . looked more
like fruitlessness than purity."
RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES RESURRECTED
During her day, Elizabeth had buried the realm's religious differences.
That burial didn't mean they had gone away, of course. The Puritans felt
the Reformation had never been properly achieved in England. The Roman
England to return to the fold, The Puritans were known as the
"hotter" Protestants, many of whom were fined, imprisoned, and
executed by the Queen. "A new king meant a new world," wrote the
author. And that it was! None would have thought of KING JAMES to be the
JAMES ORPHANED & KIDNAPED
As a youth in Scotland, JAMES lived in turmoil, constantly under
the legalistic thumb of strict Presbyterians. Even though his mother, MARY
QUEEN OF SCOTS was a Catholic, and had her baby baptized into that Roman
religion, JAMES was not Catholic. While in the womb, JAMES heard the
screams of her mother's lover being murdered. His own father, HENRY
DARNLEY, was killed by his mother's new lover. Then the lover himself was
blown up in his Edinburgh house.
Committed into the hands of Presbyterian governors, in particular
GEORGE BUCHANAN, JAMES became a trophy of Scotland's rival noble factions.
He knew what it was like to be kidnaped, held, threatened, and imprisoned.
The king of the realm, for whom a Bible was named, and the heir to the
throne of England wrote, concerning this frightening period of his life,
"I was alone, without father or mother, brother or sister. . . ."
No wonder that man wanted peace!
A HUNTER & STUDENT
During his youth, into his early manhood, JAMES was an excellent and
excessive hunter. Hunting was an escape from reality for him. It is said
that he killed every deer in the royal park. When he was not hunting, he
studied languages. It is said that this intellectual, odd-looking young
king spoke "Greek before breakfast and Latin before Scots." Also,
He composed Renaissance poetry full of frustrated emotion. He was capable
of translating the Psalms from Latin to French and from French to English.
MASCULINE FRIENDSHIPS IN THOSE DAYS
It was with interest that I read in Nicolson's book of the way that men
interacted with each other in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries. It was very different from what is practiced today. They spoke,
wrote, and referred to each other, then, with affection strange to our
In Scotland, as a child and youth, he had been reared by plain, strict
men with no imagination or kindness. For a fuller explanation of this, you
might get the 412-page book, King James I--Unjustly Accused? by
Stephen Costen (BFT #2758 @ $17.00 + S&H).
JAMES was a married man and fathered six children according to this
book. I personally was glad to read of these customs in the 1600's because
it helped me understand the social ways of the times.
OBEDIENCE & KNEELING
It is a fact that, in those days, obedience was factored into that
reverence which was due a king. The king read and believed the Apostle
Paul when he enjoined:
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers . . . The
powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth
the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. . ." (Romans 13:1)
Respect for authority was taught early. A man would kneel before his
superior. Plaintiffs knelt in court. Children knelt before their fathers.
Bishops knelt before their kings. Compliance and submissiveness were
signals of the social order in those times.
LONDON: A CITY OF DEATH
In the summer of 1603, over-populated London became a city of death.
The plague dropped upon the rich, tis true, but mostly on the crowded and
filthy. Why, at the end of the previous year, thirty thousand people had
succumbed. If the poor who were sick or weak, wandered into the better
neighborhoods, the church wardens would return them to the slums that
circled the city. It was reported that eight hundred souls died in one
single building in 1603. Those places of death were breeding infestations
for rats and magnets. More than a quarter of all children born in England
would die before they were ten; but the percentage of childhood deaths was
greater in the slums. Great was the social distinction! Preachers, of all
stirpes, wrote and preached that the plague was "nothing but the will
of God rightfully punishing wicked men!"
BRILLIANT LANCELOT ANDREWES
It was from this dreadful atmosphere of disease and death that the
first and greatest Bible TRANSLATOR emerged. His name was LANCELOT
ANDREWES, a man deeply embedded in the Jacobean establishment. At
forty-nine or fifty, he was the Master of Pembroke College at Cambridge,
Dean of Westminster Abbey, a prebendary [clergyman's salary] of St. Paul's
Cathedral, and one of the chaplains at Chapel Royal in Whitehall. Two
times, he refused a bishopric under Elizabeth because the salary was
unsatisfactory. ANDREWES was one of the most astute and brilliant men of
his age, an ecclesiastical politician, who, if he had been in the Roman
Church, would have become a cardinal or even a pope. This man who loved
the English language would come to play a leading role in the birth of the
King James Bible.
THE FRESH AIR OF CHISWICK
Surprisingly, ANDREWES absented himself from his parish during the
height of the plague. He fled to the fresh air of Chiswick. It should be
noted that the King, too, fled outside of London (which was to be
expected) for he was the royal sovereign. Even from the fields of safety,
far from the dying, the tolling bells could be heard. It was the sound of
death ringing in their ears.
The escape by ANDREWES from the plagued city did not go unnoticed by
the Puritans. HENOCH CLAPHAM, an angry pamphleteer had dared to write,
"If death came because of sin and not contagion, why would the innocent
have to flee the city?" In so doing, he was thrown into prison for
ANDREWES' UNUSUAL PRAYER LIFE
It is interesting to read of LANCELOT ANDREWES' prayer life. It was not
unusual for him to pray in private five hours every morning. He saw
himself full of sin and low in the eyes of God. He, self-confessed and
repented, wept prostrate before His Maker. The prayers he wrote for
himself, published after his death, in 1648, have been considered to be
classics of devotional literature for High Church Anglicans in the Greek
language. He was said to have stated that anyone visiting him before noon,
clearly did not believe in God. Those "in the know" considered him, not
only to be the greatest preacher of the age, but also, the most brilliant
man in the English Church, and one who tended endlessly to the school
children in his care.
Men like ANDREWES have ceased to exist today. It was because of people
like LANCELOT ANDREWES, that in the early years of the seventeenth
century, the greatest translation of the Bible was compiled. It is said
that the qualities of the man embodied in ANDREWES are also found in the
King James Bible.
A TIME FOR A CHANGE
The Puritan reformists within the Church of England felt that the mood
of the times was opportune for change. A leader by the name of LEWIS
PICKERING had a petition signed by a thousand ministers asking that the
church rid itself of the last vestige of the Roman Catholic Church. The
thinking was that this Scottish king, who was brought up under the stern
tutelage of a BUCHANAN'S Presbyterianism, could accomplish this. The king
agreed to a conference. He would meet with the Puritans and their
opponents. The Puritans were appealing to James, who thought of himself as
a Solomon, sowing peace where there had been discord.
WERE BISHOPS ENDORSED BY CHRIST?
The Puritans affirmed that "Bishops" were nowhere endorsed by
the Word of Christ. They were "royal placeholder, parasitical
government officials," who had nothing to do with God or His church.
Public debates were set up by the Puritans on subjects such as wearing of
the surplice [a loose, white, wide, sleeved outer ecclesiastical vestment,
hip or knee length depending], the use of the cross, the bishops' laying
on the hands at confirmations, and the important question of whether
ministers should be learned or not. In pure reformed churches, the
minister needed only to be an effective preacher of the Word.
The bishops were appalled at such a conference, dredging up all the
issues of the 1570's to 80's that had ceased. The symbolism of the church
was precious to LANCELOT ANDREWES and his disciple, WILLIAM LAUD. They did
not see God as an intellectual system but as a mystery. The stripping of
the altars was an unpardonable arrogance! The church had always used
ritual and ceremony to approach the Divine. Bowing the head at the name of
Jesus was the "hinge and fulcrum" of the debate. Some called the
habit of "bobbin and dipping" during prayer a habit of passionate
The Puritans' task was very touchy, for the head of the church was also
the head of state. Yet, for the Puritans, it was critical to their cause
to separate the political from the theological. The author of the book
stated, "It was these polarities across which the King James Bible was
to have its life and being"
A MEETING AT HAMPTON COURT SET
As we review the era in the early 1600's, remember that KING JAMES
believed that a good king was a listening king. Do not forget that he felt
that he, as King, had a spark of the Divine within himself.
The parties were to meet at Hampton Court on January 12, 1604. It would
be there that the idea of a new translation of the Bible would be born.
A FREEZING COUNCIL MET
It was a freezing day when the council convened. The future translators
sat together around a roaring fire. There was crusted ice on the banks of
the freezing River Thames. Puritan Separatists were there. The
Presbyterians were there. (They wanted local committees instead of bishops
or archbishops.) Lord Bishops, fully robed, present with tippets [a long,
black scarf worn by Anglican clergy] around their shoulders, big sleeved
surplices, ceremonial over-mantles, and dazzling scarlet-silk array, were
there. The Calvinists thought them too gaudy and pretentious. The Puritans
loathed the whole apparel.
Moderate Puritan JOHN REYNOLDS found himself face-to-face with his
boyhood friend, HENRY ROBINSON, who, in years, had become the Bishop of
Carlise. Two other Puritans, LAURENCE CHADERTON and JOHN KNEWSTUBS, had
been students together at Cambridge with LANCELOT ANDREWES. In college,
they had read the Bible together and, as one, had studied the ancient
RICHARD BANCROFT, a ruthless anti-Puritan sleuth in his college days,
was part of a "gown and town" clash. He had his life saved by
CHADERTON, a fellow-student, years before. Even though they differed on
ecclesiastical matters, whenever they met over the years, they would
return to their love of wrestling together. All in attendance were not
"high born." It was " brilliance"--along with education--that had thrust
them into the company of the theological elite. It should be noted that
the true extremists, the Separatists and the true Presbyterians, were
excluded from the conference. KING JAMES did not want the "brainsick
and heady preachers" present. Only the moderate bishops and
king-friendly were invited.
KING JAMES WAS AN OUTSIDER
It should be observed that the only"outsider" was JAMES himself.
He had never known a bishop or seen their array until coming to England.
His Scottish brogue colored every Greek or Latin word that he pronounced.
AUTHOR NICHOLSON commented, "It was in many ways James's sheer oddness
which steered the conference into a rather dark and confused channels."
KING JAMES & BISHOPS ALONE
At JAMES'S request, he met with the bishops and deans alone. He was
charm itself. Dean of Chester, WILLIAM BARLOW, who would soon chair the
New Testament epistles translation committee, lied in his notes. He shaded
his written remarks to follow BANCROFT'S instructions. BARLOW was told to
make it "appear" that the king was on their side. BARLOW reported
that all was peaches and cream, while, in fact, the King had attacked the
bishops openly. In a Solomon-like manner, JAMES, as a judge, wondered,
"Why did these bishops think that their church, unlike any other human
institution, was not corrupt and in need of repair?"
Calvinist MOUNTAGU, who would become a TRANSLATOR, a man BANCROFT
loathed, was deeply sympathetic to the reformists camp, and a favorite of
JAMES. As Master of the Puritan Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge,
MOUNTAGU did all he could to champion the hotter Protestants. He would not
accept any hint of a glance at Rome. On the other hand, BANCROFT and
others felt that no true church could rely on the Bible alone.
JAMES CALLED THE PURITANS TOGETHER
The following Monday, after being with the formal clergymen, JAMES
called the Puritans to meet with him. They had to prove to the king that
there was something Scripturally wrong with bishops' administration of the
confirmation, as well as the use of the cross in baptism, the ring in a
wedding service, and kneeling to receive communion, or the wearing of the
surplice, or even the institution of the episcopacy itself. If the
Puritans could not prove this, the King would not interfere with the
government of the church. As the author observed, The "church for all
its abuses, was a comfortable bed in which to set a monarchy."
During this second meeting, with ten-year-old PRINCE HENRY at his side,
JAMES treated the Puritans like dirt itself--much worse than he did the
former group. Unsympathetic THOMAS BILSON and biased RICHARD BANCROFT were
present with the Puritans as JAMES began his theological dispute. At first
I thought only they were in the room with the King, his son, and the
Puritans. Later I read that BARLOW, who seemed to be the secretary for the
proceedings, re-worked some of his notes. So he must have been present. I
also remembered that previously AUTHOR NICOLSON questioned BARLOW'S notes.
If you remember BARLOW was prone to slant his views towards the high
Unmarried REYNOLDS, the foreman of the second group, along with his
Puritan compatriot, began the discourse. CHADERTON was mute. KNEWSTUBS
told of his hatred of the cross. SPARKES barely spoke anything. In fact in
a year or so, he would flip sides and agree with BANCROFT that bishops,
like kings, were God-appointed. JAMES enjoyed the roughness of such
"Into this fierce, overheated atmosphere, where the mild divisions
in the Church of England were being whipped into extremity by the
quick, intellectual, joky, combative, slightly unsocialised banter,
argument and bullying of the king, egged on by the excited BANCROFT,
THE FIRST SUGGESTION, OF THE SEED OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE DROPPED.
It came from JOHN REYNOLDS, at the end of a long list of
suggestions. The petitioning ministers he represented would like
one only translation of your Bible to be authentical and read in your
church.'" [page 57] (MY EMPHASIS ADDED)
Or as another scribe observer noted: REYNOLDS in a more courteous voice
requested, "May your Majesty be pleased that the Bible be now
translated?" The complete REYNOLD's quotation is found in GUSTAVUS S.
PAINE's book, THE MEN BEHIND THE KING JAMES VERSION, which
is the following:
"May your Majesty be pleased to direct that the Bible be now
translated, such versions as are extant not answering to the
original." (page 1)
A NEW TRANSLATION WAS BORN
The BISHOPS' BIBLE was the Bible of the hierarchy, not a Bible of the
people. The GENEVA BIBLE was the Bible with explanatory notes. It was the
Bible translated by Calvinist Englishmen in 1550 in Geneva. The Puritans
favored the GENEVA BIBLE.
JAMES was very disturbed over some versions' accounts of the Hebrew
midwives. They did not follow Pharaoh's orders to kill all the male
babies. That was a direct disobedience to the king's orders. The women's
behavior had been the essence of sedition! JAMES felt that a king should
be obeyed explicitly.
It is difficult to discern in NICOLSON'S book if he felt that REYNOLDS
only wanted a revision of the Geneva Bible--minus the notes--or, if he
wanted a completely new translation of the Bible. Because BARLOW was prone
to slant his writings, we must agree with GUSTAVUS S. PAINE. PAINE wrote
concerning JOHN REYNOLDS that "we may justifiably call
[him--REYNOLDS] the father of the King James Bible." (Page 3 of
NICOLSON wrote on page 60 of his book the following:
"Reynolds had wanted. . .a strict Puritan Bible, non-episcopal,
the naked word of God, truly transmitted."
Anglicans, as well as Puritans, had a hand in the translation. I am
sure this was a disappointment to REYNOLDS, but there was nothing he could
do about it. The King had spoken!
AN AIR OF OPTIMISM & PEACE
Even though the stricter Puritans were not one hundred
percent pleased with the outcome of the Hampton Court Conference, an air
of optimism prevailed. With the publication of the KING JAMES BIBLE, the
English church would be unified. England and Scotland would become one
country. Peace would come temporarily to Europe.
JAMES'S INSTRUCTIONS WERE FOLLOWED
It should be noted that KING JAMES hovered over every instruction
regarding the translation of the new Bible. He was ever in the background.
"It was his Highness' who was busy drawing up the rules for the
TRANSLATORS to follow. It was his Majesty's pleasure' that the most
learned men should be drawn in." (page 65) RICHARD BANCROFT was very
clear, "The King James Bible stemmed from JAMES himself." As Mr.
Nicolson wrote: "JAMES, was to make the Bible part of large-scale
re-definition of England." (page 66)
THE BIBLE--A REMNANT OF PEACE
Today, according to the author of our book, the only remnant left of
KING JAMES'S dream of peace is the KING JAMES BIBLE.
"Its great and majestic beauties, a conscious heightening the
word of God . . . is a window on that moment of optimism, in which
the light of understanding and the majesty of God could be united
in a test to which the nation as a whole, Puritan and prelate,
court and country, simple and educated, could subscribe."